I want to write about my childhood, but only loosely based on my childhood. How do I protect myself from getting sued?
Do I say it’s fiction loosely based on my life and can I put pictures of my family in the ebook?
Alasdair Taylor's Answer
There’s not too much information about your plans here, but I’ll try to give some general guidance (based on the position under English law):
- Simply saying that something is fictional does not mean you avoid the risk of defamation claims. If any person reading the text can identify a real individual from that text, and the book contains a defamatory imputation regarding that individual, then there may be a valid defamation claim.
- In relation to each photograph you include in the book, you should get the written permission of the owner of the copyright in the photograph (usually this is the photographer). You may also need the permission of individuals appearing in the photographs – although the rules around this are not straightforward. For these purposes, it is best to use a permissions letter or similar contractual document setting out in detail the exact terms of the licence / permission.
- The ways that commercial publishers protect themselves from legal claims include: (i) providing guidance to authors regarding legal risks (you could spend some time researching publishing law); (ii) publishing through limited liability companies and ensuring publishing happens under the protection of an insurance policy (possibly impractical in your case); and (iii) having a publishing lawyer read the text and advise on legal issues before publication (expensive, but sometimes worthwhile).